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The All-Grown-Up Taco Bar

Who doesn’t love a taco bar? This combination is the sophisticated, dinner-party-ready version. This menu used the occasional shortcut, but it didn’t take days of prep work and was so colorful and festive. Serve with margaritas and Mexican beer.


The Menu:

Pulled Pork

Grilled Veggies

Charred tortillas

Colorful Mayo-less Slaw

Red Rice

Mango Salsa

Assorted Toppings: Mexican Cheese, Scallions, Chipotle Aioli 


Everything but the grilled veggie plate was made ahead. Here was the game plan:

  1. Put the pork in a slow cooker. I used this recipe from how sweet it is.
  2. Prepped the Mango Salsa, Slaw, and toppings. Moved directly to serve ware, covered and stored in the fridge. I won’t go into specific details on these items, be inspired and create your own combinations (or just google like I did). I followed the mango salsa that went with the pork mentioned above but added a secret ingredient- grated ginger!
  3. Made the red rice. I used this recipe from Real Simple. It was delicious and reheated well in a covered casserole dish.
  4. Take a break and clean the house, clean yourself up, and then return to the kitchen.
  5. Prep the veggies (slice, brush with oil, S&P). I used portabellas, zucchini, and red peppers. These looked beautiful on a plate.
  6. Assemble the buffet and make it look pretty minus the pork, tortillas, and veggies. 
  7. The pork is done! Remove from the crockpot,  shred, shred, shred and move to serving platter.Move liquid from the crockpot and pour overtop to keep moist. Cover with foil.
  8. With 30 minute to game time pour yourself a margarita (or beer if that is your thing) and start the grill. Start with the tortillas, just 1-2 minutes per side, then wrap in a damp paper towel and foil. Then grill the veggies.
  9. Chop the veggies and move to a serving platter. 
  10. Then (in my case) feel a little embarrassed taking pictures in front of your dinner guests.  Pictures weren’t great but the food was. 



Goat Cheese and Lentil Salad


I have been working on my salads this summer. I load my salads up with all sorts of things, generally anything to be found in the fridge or on the balcony, that could possibly work. I pair it with a thrown together salad dressing of shallots, vinegar or lemon, salt, pepper and olive oil. This type of salad has become a habit in our house. It’s hearty enough to be a meal but also is paired well with anything off the grill for a complete meal.

The lentils have been in my cabinet for at least 6 months and made a great addition to the salad. They added great texture like croutons would but with more complexity, heartier and healthier. By cooking them a much shorter time (15 minutes vs. 25-30 minutes) they held up in the salad and didn’t become mushy and fall apart.


Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad

Serves 2 as a main course or more as a side dish


3 cups mixed greens, I used arugula, spinach, and carrot tops

3/4 cup cooked black lentils, farro also works well in salads

1 cup sliced grape tomatoes

1/2 cup sliced almonds, pine nuts and walnuts will also work well if you have on hand

4 oz goat cheese

Salad Dressing (these amounts are estimates):

1 shallot

3 TBSP white wine vinegar/lemon

1/4 cup EVOO

Mix shallot and vinegar/lemon in a small bowl. Let sit for ~ 10 minutes to marinate. Whisk in EVOO and salt and pepper to taste.


Pasta Night (How we usually eat)

I finally decided it was time. Time to stop delaying until I was more organized or took a better picture or came up with a creative, original recipe. This is not a glamorous meal.  But it is simple, delicious and how Matt and I eat a lot of the time. That just may make it a perfect first post.

When you decide that you want to open up a nice bottle of red wine. Not because it’s that special of day but just because the urge is stricking then you just need a little indulgent pasta that uses what is in the fridge and in the garden to go with it. And with really sweet grape tomatoes, some fresh basil from the patio garden and a not so great left over bottle of red wine this comes together quickly and smells great while it’s cooking. 

You can omit the ricotta or cream, you can even omit the mozzarella but my secret to a great quick tomato sauce is to always use a little butter. Sauteing in a mixture of EVOO and butter really adds a great dimension of flavor that is well worth the TBSP of butter spread across 4 servings.


Simple Tomato Sausage Pasta (with Ricotta and Fresh Mozzarella)



  • 2-3 italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 1/2 package of shells
  • 1 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup of ricotta (can use heavy cream if you have or completely admit to stay healthy.
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes 
  • Basil for garnish

1. Brown sausage in a pan over medium heat, remove and set aside. Meanwhile bring pot of water to boil.

2. Melt butter with EVOO in small skillet, add onion and saute until soft about 3-5 minutes

3. Deglaze pan with wine, let reduce by about half. Add sausage back to pot and stir in ricotta. 

4. Cook shells or other pasta of choice until slightly less then al dente

5. Add shells to pot along with 1/4 cup of pasta cooking liquid (less if sauce is not thick)

6. Take slices of fresh mozzarella and nuzzle into pasta. Cover with lid and cook about 3 minutes until pasta is done and cheeze is melted. Use as much or little cheese as you desire

7. Spoon gooey cheesy pasta into bowls. sprinkle with basil. Serve with a simple side salad and good wine